Hexie WIP

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My Mom gave me a Jelly roll of Kaffe Fasset’s 2011 fall line for my birthday this year. After debating many possible uses for it, I decided cut it all into 2 1/2 inch squares for making hexies. I also got a Sew Line glue stick from my Dad and have been loving how fast I can make these babies now,

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I love the bright, busy and bold look of them when they are all together. I’ve been working on these on my break at work, and in the evening whenever I can, mostly after the little man has gone to bed on my weekends.

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The plan in my head so far is to make the rectangle hexies a square by adding a solid fabric on the top and bottom, then turning every other block. I am stuck on what to use for the solid fabric. Looks like a trip to the fabric store is in my future!

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Have a great day everyone!

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My “Studio”

I am very fortunate to have a space in my house where I’ve set up my sewing stuff. In the past, I’ve used a table in my in-laws basement and before that, I used my dining room table. Both worked at the time but nothing beats having a space in my own house that I don’t have to set up and tear down every night! My basement is unfinished so it lends a certain shall we say, charm to the space.

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Notice the books and bricks my tables are propped up on to make them taller so I don’t injure my back! Even then, they aren’t quite tall enough for cutting or ironing comfortable for long periods of time. A few years ago, I invested in this cart for cutting and ironing.

my cutting/ironing table!

my cutting/ironing table!

I love my ironing mat. I just move my cutting mat to one of the shelves underneath when I’m done with it and unfold the ironing mat! The cart is built for my height (really tall!) and is on wheels so I can move it when I need to. It is one of my favorite tools because cutting fabric isn’t painful anymore! Using it as an ironing table is just icing on the cake.

Fabric storage

Fabric storage or rather fabric and batting explosion

As you can see, my storage method for fabric lends to the messy and disorganized side. I’ll need to invest in some proper cupboards down the road as my stash slowly increases in size. Sometime soon, I also need to reorganize my scraps. I have a little, rolling, plastic bin thingy for smaller scraps. My ideal organization for this set up that I currently have is for anything over a half yard to be on the shelves and then anything smaller in the bins. I just need time to go through everything and refold it. If only we had an extra hour a day, right?!

Thread!

Threads and bobbins

My hubbie got me an amazing drop down sewing table over the summer that we found on craigslist that had this nifty thread storage system I love. My aurfil collection is very slowly growing beyond off white! I love aurifl thread and in the past have only bought it for piecing, but as I practice my free motion skills, I’ve been getting colors for certain projects!

My baby

The machine in all her old glory

And here is the machine behind the projects! She was given to me by my mother-in-law barely used. I haven’t named her yet, but I will in time. She is a great work horse of a machine. She also free motions like a champ! I wished that I had some newer features on her like needle down or an automatic thread cutter. Oh well, things to dream about for when I buy a new machine in the long off future! I can’t really complain too much because this is an amazing machine for my skills to grow on and I am so grateful to have been given it!

As you can see in these pictures there are some unusual items in the basement. A spare bee hive in case our hive swarms in the spring, patchy concrete walls and lots of extension cords. Just your typical unfinished basement turned quilting studio! I’d love to have a design wall, but the ceiling is pretty short, and I’m not sure if it is worth the hassle to figure out how to hang it on the foundation. I am dreading the day that we go full speed ahead on finishing the basement. Eventually we want our master bedroom and bathroom down there and my sewing studio in our current bedroom. I’ll have to move my sewing items to my in-laws house while that’s happening as there is no other space to set up in my very small house. Thankfully, we aren’t going to be starting that for a while and I can enjoy having my space in my own house. I’ll leave you today with an image that I see often while I am quilting, my son peeking through a hole in the ceiling, calling for me to come and say hi to him.

Hi Mom!

Hi Mom!

Have a great day everyone!

The First Quilt

Today I am itching to share with you my latest projects, but alas, they are gifts and I do not want to spoil the surprise for my family and friends. I thought instead I could share with you my very first quilt. I must mention that it was also my very first time using a sewing machine!

I got the idea to make a quilt as a way to stay connected to my Mom, who had moved to Tennessee. She had gotten back into quilting a few years before she moved and I was inspired by her work. She’d never taught me how to sew, I was more interested in baking, painting and sculpting as a kid. There was something about the craft that resonated with me when I got older. I was very fortunate that my step mom also quilted, otherwise I would never had known where to start. My step mom did a great job of taking me under her wing. She helped me design my own pattern, taught me how to do quilt math for all the fabric I was going to need, and set me up on her machine. These two women gave me the inspiration to start and the beginning skills and I will forever be grateful to both of them for quilting has become such an important part of who I am.

The very first quilt

The very first quilt

When I look at this quilt now, despite it’s flaws, I still see the tone that I follow to this day. I like to play with opposite colors, make it challenging by making my own pattern or changing a written pattern and do the quilting myself. Though not every quilt follows these ideals, the ones I love the most generally do.

Quilting done by me!

Quilting done by me!

I hope you enjoyed seeing my first quilt and learning how I got started in this awesome craft. Hope you guys have a great day!

Pumpkin Pie!

My little man spied a sugar pumpkin at the grocery store this morning and sweetly asked me if we could make a pumpkin pie today. How can I resist? As we got the weeks groceries, I talked with him about how to roast a pumpkin and what we needed for the pie. Normally, I would make a crust from scratch, but I only have one day off this week with a crazy workload so I took pity on myself and bought one. We got home and once the food was put away, I sat my boy on the counter and used my clever to halve the pumpkin. He was really excited to see the seeds, so I saved them for roasting once the pie was done.
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I roasted my pumpkin for about 35 minutes. It was a small one, so if yours is bigger, you might need longer. Just stick a fork in it. When there is little resistance, it’s done. Cool it a bit on the counter so you can handle it, and scrap the flesh into a food processor. Your puree should be stiff, and silky. Water content can vary between the varieties. Do not worry if yours looks a little thinner or a bit watery, just put it in a fine mesh strainer or jelly bag and squeeze the water out until it looks stiff.

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At this point, my man lost interest and didn’t want to help mix the filling together. The fact that he is interested at all in baking is pretty exciting for me, so I let him play with his legos while I mixed it together. My pumpkin wasn’t as smooth as I thought it was, so I poured it through a fine strainer as I filled the pies.  Into the oven they go!

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Now the trick will be letting them cool with out small hands dipping into them! When I was a kid, I was notorious for sampling the pies before dinner! A little bit of streusel here, a swipe there. I thought I was so clever, but my mom always knew and would scold me. We’ll see if it’s genetic!

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While buying the crust rather than making it was a time/sanity saver, I never have liked the look of it. The stores supply of shells were all cracked in places. It didn’t look as bad as they turned out! Of well.

On a side note, my kitchen has TERRIBLE lighting. I have two windows at opposite ends and crappy overheads. You can practically see when there was sun and when it was raining. I hope you stick with me as I figure out how to overcome the challenges I face when photographing food!

Pumpkin Pie

16 ounces of fresh pumpkin puree (or one 15 ounce can, I won’t begrudge you)

1 cup sugar

2 ea eggs

1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon clove

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 ea 12 ounce can evaporated milk

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Prepare your pie crust however you choose by either buying one, or making one. Preheat your oven 375 degrees. Whisk the pumpkin, eggs, sugar, spices and salt together until  smooth. Stir in the milk and vanilla. If your pumpkin isn’t totally smooth, you can pour it through a fine strainer then into your pans. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until it jiggles like jello. It is ok if the center looks a little wet. There is some carry over cooking that happens, but the middle must jiggle and not slosh!

Hope you enjoy!

 

Birthday Cake!

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My little man turned 5 at the beginning of the month! This called for some great cake. I had originally planned on making cupcakes for his party. He wanted an Under the Sea theme, so I was going to make chocolate cupcakes with blue frosting and sugar corals for toppers. Then he informed me that he wanted a big round cake in his serious, stubborn voice that meant there would be no use trying to steer him down the easier path. So I changed gears and set out to make him excited. There was never any doubt about the flavor of the cake, he’s a giant chocoholic.

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I decided on a salted caramel and whipped vanilla bean cream for the filling and a cooked flour, brown sugar frosting. I decided that it would be easier to make the decorations from white chocolate rather than making them from sugar and it saved me a drive into Portland. While the cake baked and cooled, I played with food coloring, wax paper, a couple ziplock bags (my pastry bags were in my husbands car) and melted white chocolate. It was fun making wonky shapes and thinking about what different corals look like, trying to replicate it. I didn’t get to critical with them though, I was only using a baggie after all to make them!

075 073 Cold layered cakes are always best for when you are frosting a cake. You should have seen this cake as I was carrying it to the spare fridge, all wibbly wobbly. The next day it was solid and sturdy. The cooked flour frosting needs a little work before I do it again. I’m not entirely sure if it was the new recipe I tried, or replacing the granulated sugar partly with brown, but it wouldn’t come together as creamy as I know my mom makes. Not to say that it tasted awful, or was curdled, but it didn’t give me a smooth cake and I didn’t want to fiddle with it too much. Also, next time I make cake, I must remember to get some cardboard circles from work. In a fit of desperation, I cut out circles from an opened box of legos that he had gotten from mom and dad. I meant to stack the cake on the brown side, but wasn’t thinking and started layering on the picture side. I guess it was appropriate, and it worked well. The chocolate decorations were such a cute detail. Overall, I’m very happy with how it all turned out.

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The little man was thrilled and as with every child, got caught licking a finger-full of frosting off the side the night of his party. The cake is one of the moistest, most tender chocolate cakes I have made in a while. I’ll be making this again and I hope you like it too!

For the Cake:

2 cups     Sugar

1 3/4 cup All Purpose Flour

3/4 cup     Cocoa Powder

1 1/2 t       Baking Soda AND Baking Powder

1 t               Salt

1 cup          Milk

2 ea             Eggs

1/2 cup       Butter, melted and cooled

1 cup           Hot water

1 t                 Espresso Powder

 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9 inch round cake pans and dust with flour. Tap out the excess and set aside. Do not skip this step, or skimp. The cake will stick to the bottom and crack when you are trying to remove it from the pan.

Stir together in a large bowl the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add milk, eggs and melted butter. Beat together for 2 minutes. Add the espresso powder to the hot water and stir until dissolved. Gently fold the water into the batter and then beat until it is well blended. This makes a thin batter. Divide between the two pans.

Bake the cakes for 25 minutes, then rotate and bake for another 5-8 minutes. You can tell when a cake is done 2 ways, by gently touching the top and seeing the cake spring back, or if your still unsure, use a toothpick in the center. If it comes out clean, the cake is done. Cool for 10 minutes before flipping the cake onto a rack to cool completely.

For the Caramel:

1 cup     Sugar

1/4 cup  Water

2 T           Light Corn Syrup

3/4 cup   Heavy Whipping Cream

1/4 cup    Butter, diced

Large pinch of Kosher Salt

In a small sauce pan, pour in the water and corn syrup first, then dump in the sugar. Make sure all the sugar is wet, then set the pan on medium high heat. Once the sugar starts bubbling, brush down the sides with a wet brush and stop stirring the pot. Just let it sit there until you start to see some brown coloring. Swirl the pot until you reach a nice amber color, then quickly add the cream. The caramel will bubble up and triple in volume during this volcanic moment. Be careful. Add the butter and the salt and cool to room temperature.

For the Whipped Vanilla Cream:

3T        Cold Water

1 3/4 t  Gelatin

2 1/4 C  Chilled Heavy Whipping Cream, divided

2T           Powdered Sugar

2 t            Vanilla Bean Paste

Place the cold water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the top. Let the gelatin bloom for 10 minutes. In a small sauce pan, heat a 1/4 cup of cream until simmering. Pour over the gelatin and stir to dissolve. Put the bowl in the fridge and stir it often until it is cool to touch, but not set. Meanwhile, whip the cream and powdered sugar until soft peaks for. Add the vanilla and the gelatin and beat until medium-firm peaks form.

Assembly:

Split the cakes in half. Place the first half on a round piece of cardboard and drizzle a third of the caramel on top. Spread a third of the whipped cream on top, almost to the edges (the weight of the top layers will push it all the way out) then top with another layer of cake and continue on layer. I saved a little cream and pushed it into the sides to fill up any gaps. An off set spatula is really helpful for this. Chill the cake for several hours. No rushing this people! It will make frosting it a breeze if you can wait until it is set. I let it set overnight.

Frost with your favorite buttercream frosting. I don’t want to share the cooked flour brown sugar recipe yet. When I get it right, I will do a post about it! Hope you enjoy the cake and if you have any questions, let me know!

Honey Harvest 2013!

015Despite all of the swarming we had in the spring, our hive was productive enough for us to harvest honey! We are very excited to have gotten any this year. In the spring, the population in the hive was incredibly small by the time all four swarms happened, then the queen that was left was very aggressive. We’d be in the backyard several feet away from the hive and have bees buzz our heads trying to get us to move even farther away. An extreme difference from the previous queen, where we could be less then a foot from the hive watching them with no problems. My son was terrified of them when they did this to him, he didn’t want outside at all. We decided that even though it would mean two additional weeks before we would have brood, that the current queen had to go. Amazingly, they pulled through and had enough by the end of September that we were comfortable taking some.

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Delicious honey! My husband is so excited! We set up in the garage because it’s a sticky process and it makes clean up easier for us. The way it works is once you have the frames sans bees, you take a hot capping knife ( a long serrated off set knife) and cut the wax capping off and into a bin. Then the frames go two at a time into a spinner. We rent ours from our bee supply store and got a hand cranked spinner. It uses centrifugal force to get the honey out without destroying the comb. Then when all the frames are empty, we strain it into a bucket and leave the honey supers for the bees to clean. They will get ALL the honey that might be left on the frame and clean it dry. The wax caps get strained through my jelly bag and into a pot so that we don’t waste any of the precious liquid gold. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the wax. Any ideas? The whole process is a lot of work, so we drafted our friend to help us in exchange for a pint.

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We got 1 3/4 gallon this year. Not bad from a hive that was struggling in the spring! The flavor has notes of floral, butter and oak. Last years harvest was more citrus and floral, amazing how it changes year to year!044

Last years is on the left and the new crop on the right. So happy to have a stock of honey again, and just in time for tea season. It’s been raining buckets here and my chamomile tea stash is being rapidly consumed.

Have a great day!

Tinker Tote Finish

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My friend Cat over at create, bought me a craftsy class of my choosing for my birthday back in July and much deliberating, I decided to take Quilt-As-You-Go Patchwork Bags. I had a great time making it! Tara does a great job teaching bag construction which is something I have struggled with in the past. This is the first time I was able to wrap my head around making something 3D. The zippered pocket lesson in the class blew my mind and I’m pretty happy with my first attempt at one!

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When I make this again (and I will!) I am going to make the pocket a couple inches longer and deeper. I have a standard sized wallet and it almost doesn’t fit in it.

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The Prescription for Chicken Soup fabric patches are my favorite parts of the whole bag! I love that fabric and am so glad that I bought a yard of it when I normally only buy half yards if I don’t have an immediate plan for it.

Have a great day!